The English Premier league returned this weekend after 2 months away. Last season saw Manchester United take the Premier League title, Manchester City splashing the cash and a relegation battle that went down to the wire but will we be in for another season of excitement?
This time around, there are 3 new teams in the league (QPR,Norwich City and Swansea City). QPR went up as runaway champions of the Championship and Norwich came in 2nd following a late season slump by my club,Cardiff City.Swansea City went up after a Scott Sinclair hat trick in the Play-off final at Wembley against Reading. So how will these 3 teams cope with life in the premiership? In my opinion, not well.
Swansea have lost goalkeeper Dorans de Vires to Wolverhampton and Franco Borini who’s loan spell has now ended. They have been replaced by Jose Moreira from Benfica and record signing and last year’s top championship goal scorer, Danny Graham from Watford. The rest of the squad lack Premier League experience and on paper, they should come in 20th place and come straight back down.
Norwich have earned 2 promotions in 2 years but surely survival would be a great achievement but it doesn’t look like they have the ability to stay up. They have brought in Ritchie de Laet on loan from Manchester United and Wales international striker, Steve Morison. Like Swansea, most of the Norwich squad have never played in the Premier League before. They look like they will fall just short of survival with 17th place being where many predict they’ll come.
On paper, QPR look the most likely to stay up. After running away with the championship last season under Neil Warnock, they were never far from newspaper headlines with allegations they broke the rules over the signing of Alejandro Faurllin in 2009. Media speculated that QPR would be docked points to prevent them going up automatically but they were only found guilty of 2 of the 8 allegations and were find £825,000 rather than docked points. QPR have Moroccan international and Championship player of the year Adel Taarabt in their squad but their survival depends on if he stays with them. QPR have signed former Cardiff striker Jay Bothroyd on a free transfer and Danny Gabbidon and Kieron Dyer from West Ham, again on a free. They could scrape past the drop but It’ll be close between them and Norwich in my opinion. QPR should just about survive but it could go to a final day relegation scrap.
Blackburn Rovers look like they’re in really big danger. After escaping the drop on the final day of this season, it looks like it’ll get a whole lot worse for Blackburn. To survive, they have to keep hold of their big 2 players, Paul Robinson and Chris Samba. If they lose even one of them, their fate looks steeled and their fate looks to be relegation. A lowly 19th is where I think they’ll come.
Let’s look further up the table, Aston Villa have brought in a new manager in the form of former Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish. McLeish lead fierce city rivals Birmingham to relegation last season. McLeish controversially took charge of Villa in June and he has since brought in Manchester City’s Shay Given and Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia. Following a poor season last season after losing Martin O’Neil days before the start of last season and Gérard Houllier to illness towards the end of last season. A 9th place finish should do them justice, possibly sneaking 8th.
Sunderland had a solid season and manager Steve Bruce has raided his former club Manchester United for Wes Brown and John O’Shea who join former United players Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsely at the club. An even better season could be in store for Sunderland despite loosing Darren Bent in January.
Stoke City and Everton should also be in the top half of the table. Following Stoke’s trek to the FA cup final, they will be brimming with confidence despite their lackluster 13th place finish. Stoke’s WELSH manager Tony Pulis (Yes, I did capitalize and make the word Welsh bold) has added a few injury prone but top quality players to their squad. Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson have been signed after being released by Tottenham and West Ham respectively.
Everton have been very consistent over the last few seasons but they have slowly slipped down the table following the emergence of Manchester City and Tottenham. The issue with Everton is that they don’t make any big signings to compete with the likes of Tottenham. Out of Aston Villa,Sunderland, Stoke and Everton, they will probably finish bottom of the 4 following no major signings. Scottish manager David Moyes needs to bring in a few players before time runs out.
Things are going to get interesting at the top end of the table with dominant United, cash splashing City, stylish Tottenham, selling boys Arsenal, the young boys of Liverpool and Manager switching Chelsea all fighting for the title.
We start our look at the big 6 with Liverpool. Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish is now the full time manager after being appointed Caretaker manager last season following Roy Hodgson’s shocking 1st half of the season ended in him resigning in January. New American owner John W. Henry has given Dalglish an awful lot of money to spend following the sale of Fernando Torres to Chelsea. They have signed Charlie Adam from Blackpool, Jordan Henderson from Sunderland, Stewart Downing from Aston Villa and José Enrique from Newcastle. Liverpool had a shocking season by their standards last season but this season should be better. It’s going to be tight as to whether they make it back into the top 4 again but without the distraction of European Football, they could have a slight advantage.
Next up is Tottenham who had a great season last year despite dropping out of the top 4. WELSHMAN Gareth Bale (Yes, I did it again) was the talk of football following stunning performances against Stoke in the EPL and Inter Milan in the group stages of the Champions League. Harry Redknapp has done very well to keep him but they will probably miss out on the top 4 should they lose him in January or in the last 2 weeks of the summer transfer window. Rafael Van Der Vaart was a key player for Spurs last year and so was Luka Modric. Keeping them will also be key to success this season. However, a lack of new signings could be their downfall with the only major signing being American goalkeeper Brad Friedel for free from Aston Villa but it could be a vital signing after Heurelho Gomes had a few dodgy moments last season.
Arsenal look as if they’re in major trouble after selling captain Cesc Fábregas to his home club FC Barcelona for £35 million and Samir Nasri and Emanuel Eboue’s departures look imminent. Gael Clichy has also left for Manchester City for a bargain price of £7 million. They have brought in Gervinho from French side Lille for £10.5 million and youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton for £12 million but can he follow in the footsteps of Theo Walcott who also joined Arsenal from Southampton a few years a go? My personal opinion, no but maybe in a few seasons time. It will be a year for the younger players such as WELSHMAN Aaron Ramsey (and I did it again) and Englishman Jack Wilshere to step up to the mark but unless Arséne Wenger brings in a lot of new faces in the remaining 2 weeks of the transfer window, I can’t see them remaining in the top 4, possibly losing out to Liverpool or arch rivals Tottenham.
We’re down to the big 3 who should be the main contenders for the title. I am of course talking about Manchester United,Manchester CityandChelsea.
By Chelsea’s standards, it’s been a quiet pre-season apart from the introduction of the youngest manager in the EPL, André Villas-Boas. With no real transfers to talk about, they’ll probably come 3rd this season but if El £50 Million Pound man (AKA El Nino, AKA Fernando Torres) starts putting the ball in the net, they could push for 2nd but they also need a few more world class players.
Manchester City have been the club splashing the cash with the most expensive transfer thus far in the transfer window, Sergio Aguero’s £38 million move from Athletico Madrid. Their success this season depends on how well he settles into the English game. Also moving to the newly named Ethiad Stadium is Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic. It will be no surprise to see more world superstars moving to the blue side of Manchester soon but I can’t see them catching their big rivals Manchester United this season but I can see them winning the FA Cup again.
And that brings us onto the most successful club in England, Manchester United. With 19 league titles under their belt, they should go onto win their 20th title this season. Sir Alex has made 3 major signings: Phil Jones (Blackburn), David De Gea (Athletico Madrid) and Ashley Young (Aston Villa) and they have retained most of their 1st choice team. The fact Manchester City’s new squad are still gelling together and Chelsea rare lack of signings could mean United should win the title.
Seeing as if week 1 has now been played, here are the results:
Fulham 0-0 Aston
WBA 1-2Manchester United
Stoke 0-0 Chelsea
Manchester City4-0 Swansea
And that concludes this look at the new Barclays Premier league. I’m sure you’re looking forward to finding out what happens along the long road to May.